Published November 13th 2012

Reaching out to influencers: the less influential, the better?


In the past week, I’ve read around 5 posts about influencer marketing, including one about using the 80/20 rule to identify top influencers to focus on.

It appears that more and more people have realized that paying for Facebook Ads, or sponsored tweets isn’t what social media marketing is about. It’s about reaching online influencers who can spread your idea/message/product to their followers in Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, …just not Facebook (that’s why I secretly avoid it. It makes me no money =)

Many services have popped out for people wanting to reach influencers. There’s Klout, the misguided product that isn’t really a game, but in actuality a very effective marketing tool. There’s PinPuff, a very good app for finding influencers in Pinterest (recently acquired). And there’s GroupHigh, a relatively new service for finding influential bloggers.

And of course, if influencers are important people to reach, that means I should reach out to the most influential people in my niche, right? The one with the most Twitter followers, or the highest Klout score. Intuitively that would make sense. We don’t have a lot of time, so why waste time cultivating relationships with the blogger who has only 1000 followers vs the one with 100,000+?

The problem with that is that the more influential the person, the more likely they are to ignore you. Especially if they receive tons of tweets, emails, and messages every single day. And even if they do respond to your message, you probably have to keep in touch with them often in order for them to remember you. I don’t consider myself influential at all. But when I look at my social media stream, the first thing I think about is: Wow, there is a LOT of noise here – there’s no way I’m going to read all these updates..

Instead the strategy I prefer to follow is to cultivate relationships with high-quality influencers who aren’t the Oprahs, or Seth Godins in their niche, but are still quite important. If you’re familiar with baseball, there’s the concept of high-value players: people you aren’t going to break the bank to pay for, but will still deliver good results for their salary. That’s exactly who you should touch base with.

You may think there aren’t a lot of these people out there, but you’d be surprised. Have you ever read a post from TheNextWeb, for instance? It’s a very popular tech blog, perhaps the 3rd or 4th most read after Techcrunch. Yet, if you pick any specific author, and look at the number of comments, it’s usually no more than 10. Most of the time, it’s even fewer than 5. Which means it’s a very unsaturated place to develop some rapport with that blogger.

And while you might dismiss blog commenting as a valid form of relationship building, did you know that a regular commenter in Fred Wilson’s (A venture capitalist) blog eventually led him to write and invest in his product idea (Engagio)?

So, when looking for influencers to reach, the smart strategy would be to reach out to the high-value influencers. The one with some klout, but aren’t saturated with messages from strangers on a daily basis. Or find a high-value medium. Instead of reaching out to them via Twitter where they are bombarded with 1000’s of random, trivial tweets, reach out to them via blog commenting, or Google+. (and by reaching out, I mean interacting with them for months, not a one-time begging for coverage)

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